At the current Unite 09 conference, a new release of the Unity3D was announced, bringing it up to version 2.6. According to the website, this new version brings along more than 100 enhancements in respect to the previous version.
The most notable thing, however, is the fact that the $200 Indie variant of the engine has disappeared. It has now been replaced with a free version and has been renamed to “Unity3d”. The new version includes support for the PC and Mac platforms, and also allows publishing to the web, by using the Unity3D web plugin. iPhone support is not included in this version, but requires a separate license for Unity3D iPhone.
At the moment, Unity3D does not provide source code to its engine in the standard or pro license. The Unity Store does mention a possibility of obtaining the source code license, but that is only possible by contacting the Unity3D sales department. No source code means that engine tinkering is not possible unless it is done using scripts.
This means that there is only one Unity web plugin needed that is compatible with all the Unity3d games, as they all use the same engine. It does mean however that the adaptations one can do to make his game stand out of the crowd are limited to what is feasible in script.
The announcement of the new price for the indie version has sparked some debate on the Torque forums. With the Torque 3D release, the engines have undergone quite a price hike (from 295$ to almost 1000$ if you can’t have discounts due to earlier purchases).
The original blog post on Torquepowered.com which announced the new pricing made me wonder if the site would explode due to the vast number of responses. People were complaining that GarageGames (now Torquepowered.com) was abandoning the indie developer. A Torque3D release for Artists should be in the pipeline at $500 to counter some critiscism.
Naturally, when a direct competitor pulls of a stunt like this, discussions will be held on the forums. The concensus of the debate has been that Unity3D and Torque3D have different strengths. The development tools that come with Unity3D are still superior to the ones in Torque3D, while Torque3D is considered more of a competitor of the Unity3D Pro license, but with added source code.
The fact that Unity3D has superior development tools shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, considering its roots in the Mac world. The Mac world has always been more conscious of ease of use, while the PC world just wanted something that worked.
In the end, I believe this new direction of Unity3D is a good thing. Garagegames is slowly edging away from the hobbyist market they started in. The new pricing of the engines, the change of the name to TorquePowered and the move to Las Vegas are all indication that they consider themselves more and more of a mainstream game engine company. They do offer very good value for the capabilities of the engine and access to the source code, nothing changed there.
It’s no rocket science that a 1000$ engine is out of reach for most hobbyists. Those hobbyists wouldn’t need access to the source code in most cases, so the free Unity3D variant is a welcome addition to the playground.